I may have mentioned with much fanfare and in many venues that I was sworn into the Washington Bar Association last Friday. As with many rites of passage, the ritual itself marks a slow transformation that has been happening and continues to happen; it does no actually confer magical lawyer capabilities. Although boy does it change some of the legal repercussions if you allow it to do so. But there's wiggle room on either end - before this, I could do quite a lot of legal work so long as my mom was ultimately responsible for it and now I am still waiting for my WSBA number (no, biking-nut-boyfriend, I still do not mean my Washington State Bicycling Association Number and no I am not planning to compete in any bike races this year despite my obvious aptititude at all kinds of bike handling, such as... well falling mostly and occasionally breaking my chain) in order to enter pleadings and so on.

But that said, it was a momentous occasion and meant far more to me than my graduation from law school (squished as that was between bouts of bar prep assignments, I barely celebrated and didn't really feel like the J.D. alone really indicated the culmination of three pretty tough years, since the end goal was the being-at-work-being-a-lawyer thing). Our final hurdle before the official swearing in involved a full morning of New Lawyer Education. This is half welcoming committee and half "all the practical information you really should have heard during law school." Lawyers have a funny view of law school and I don't blame them. Not only do they have their hazy memories of the trauma involved with what amounts to a form of intellectual boot camp and/or brainwashing, but they also have experienced plenty of young attorneys. And boy are we bright-but-bleary eyed and useless sometimes! I heard a lot of times in a lot of different ways that now that we are out of school and done with the bar we need to remember how to be human beings again - remember our guts, step away from the technicalities, do non-legal activities. Oh and be constantly on watch about recording our hours. God, tell me about it! My time is divided up by the tenth of an hour - try to manage that with today's normal amount of multitasking.

My other favorite tips/moments were:


  • Figure out how to work with translators, because increasingly you will be needing them and it can raise some very interesting ethical problems. Sometimes talking with them in advance can be extremely helpful. And be aware of cultural ideas that might color the effectiveness of a translator (gender, for instance, or the example of the court translator for a criminal case who just happened to also be the defendant's priest!)
  • When it comes to networking, make a list of non-legal things that you genuinely love - whatever those may be - and joing some kind of club related to these. Being known socially is often a great way to garner referral sources and not being surrounded by lawyers keeps you sane and in touch with your gut a little bit more. 
  • Figure out what kind of practice you want to have and try to find clients who want that kind of attorney. The best time to avoid issues with clients is when deciding to take them. Because we're young lawyers, people may think we're desperate, but making sacrifices early on in order to build the client roster that allows us to excel will pay off in the long run. 
  • Find one point of non-law connection with every attorney you share a case with and you will be interact with a great deal more perspective and humanity. 
Anyways, there was also coffee and pretty decent sandwiches. Oh, and the ringleader - our current bar president - had a rather dashing tie featuring ostriches with their heads buried in the sand.

I think they were meant to be role models
for handling what we're about to get into!

The swearing in itself was blessedly brief. I'm sure that we spent more time waiting outside for the courtroom to open up - me with roughly twenty pounds of flowers from my various awesome admirers (love you mom, Dad, Molly!) For the first time, we got to step "before the bar" which refers to the front - well - pew between the seating area and the judge's bench. Our oath was so long, they gave us a script and we all attempted to read it out in unison. And, like I said, I still don't have my bar number, but I am an attorney damnit! Unless it's all one of those practical jokes where I didn't really pass and they cruelty of it just got a bit out of hand. Anyways, there were about seven other attorneys being sworn in with me. Each had the opportunity of being introduced by an affiliate or friend, but only my mom stepped up. Which was kind of awesome, because she gave this detailed background of the high points of my resume from undergrad until now (including all the awards and scholarships I've gotten as well as work experience). Then the bar president "introduced" the rest by calling their names, one after another in quick succession - after me, how could anyone else be interesting enough to garner comment!

But word of mouth is good - apparently it is now understood that I am "smart" by an olio of family law attorneys who weren't actually present at the swearing in... After Saturday evening (a whole 'nother story, but in short, I went to a fundraiser and I danced for my dinner and attorneys were there and impressed in that really delightful and non-jaded way that only non-dancers can be - way more fun!), I'm sure I've got all kinds of fascinating word of mouth going on!

But hey, pictures: 




And yes, this is my dashing $900 Nordstrom's tailored suit that maybe fit a little better before that last year of law school and that bar prep debacle. It's a but less tailored than it used to be, but it still looks pretty good - I mean how could it not, considering *I'm* wearing it.

For the transition, my mom and I have worked out a gradual plan. I have been shadowing her in addition to doing papers and research and projects like that. Starting this week, we are switching off during consultations. For representation, while I'm still learning, we're kind of going off of a law firm model - where she would be the supervising attorney and I would be (surprisingly) the associate. This way our clients get the benefit of the easy legal work done at a lower rate by me and the sophisticated and challenging stuff still handled. So I conduct the consultation with her observing and chiming in where appropriate. Since my first consultation was a crazy emergency mess in a complicated area... well, I'm glad she's there. But I'm also happy to start talking with clients and doing the pre-consultation preparation that will eventually have me nailing things. I know a lot of attorneys are just thrown into the deep end and figure things out, but I really feel that I owe our clients a little better than that. We will eventually move back into her having her clients and me having mine, but I do kind of enjoy that for a while we'll be a team - nothing says family law like a mother and daughter cadre of attorneys!

Putting the FAMILY back in FAMILY LAW


Anyways, first consult is officially attempted, although naturally it was completely peculiar and out of my depth, in addition to being in a serious time-crunch due to the fact that he was a half hour late! But, hey, what matters is that I had a suit on and every once in a while realize that although compared to what a competent practitioner should know, I may not know much right now... there is some effect to that law school indoctrination. I forget just how wide the chasm can be between normal English and legalese (and it's not the heretofore's and the thuslys that laypeople always emulate when attempting to be lawyerly... it's that every single word has a specific and precise meaning and every time period has different import). That was brought home to me both in my recent consult and during a wind down after my exercise session with some girlfriends of mine. We were talking about car accidents we'd been in and I was bemoaning the ongoing lawsuit against me for the accident I was involved in twenty billion years ago and how close to the Statute of Limitations (which does actually well abbreviate to SOL, as I instinctively wanted to do) I had been served. The other girl who had been the plaintiff in a suit said she thought the entire thing had to be settled within the SOL and seemed a little concerned as she had apparently settled her case with that deadline in mind. I am so indoctrinated that I had a hard time imagining the SOL correlating to anything other than the "commencement" of a suit (and yes my brain starts whirring about the tolling periods and procedures for commencement...). So little reality check that maybe my three years of law school did something other than just make all my clothes fit really poorly, add some fancy sounding honors to my resume, and put me in Seattle to meet my cyclo-nut boyfriend!

And that brought home another tip we had covered in my New Lawyer Education - people find us scary - we speak a magical language that controls major aspects of their lives and costs thousands of dollars to sort out. Nothing sums that up better than when our coordinator was explaining that being in court was one of the scariest things a lot of his clients experienced and said "for victims - er - clients, it can be really difficult!"

So, ready to don my suit, find some victims - er clients - and chill the legal koolaide that I've been drinking! Wish me luck and feel free to start the referrals! The crazier the better (no, really, no, I don't mean that!!!)



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